Monday 11 August 2014

Why Free Still Works...

I've found that marketing tactics among indie authors seem to go in waves. A couple of years ago, free ebooks were all a hit. Then this time last year, it was the $0.99 'deal' ebooks that were riding high. Now it seems to be $0.99 box sets that are hitting the best seller lists.

I have debated putting together a box set for some time now. To be honest, the only thing holding me back is time in formatting it, and also creating a box set cover. I'm sure I could figure it out if I had the time, but I don't right now because new books still take priority with my writing time. With the kids off school, so I now have three little ones under my feet all day, I need to stay focused.

However, that wasn't the point of this post today! No, today I wanted to talk about free ebooks and why as a marketing tool, they can still work.

May 2014 was one of my slowest months, sales-wise, that I've had for at least a couple of years. I had the third book in the Spirit Shifters series in the editing process, and I just thought sod it, I'll put the first book as free and see what happens. I did this by choosing the free option on Draft 2 Digital, and then within a few days, Amazon price matched.

Within a few days, I had over 14,000 downloads of Autumn's Blood on Amazon, and thousands more on Barnes & Noble and Apple. The sales of the second book took off, and as soon as I released book three, my sales jumped to a height I've not seen for some time.

Because my free book worked so well in this instant, I decided to take one of my other books, The Sound of Crickets, and put it into KDP Select. I've not been in KDP Select for eighteen months, but the book wasn't selling on any platform, so I figured I had nothing to lose. I set up a number of ads and set three of my free days on Amazon. Well, even these results surprised me. In three days, I had almost 20,000 downloads of The Sound of Crickets. I'd been hoping for a couple of thousand, so those numbers were overwhelming. When it went back to paid, the sales continued. Over the last few weeks they've begun to drop back down again, but I'm still getting more sales than I did before the KDP promotion.

One of the best parts of this free promotion hasn't just been the sales. When I started my give away, I had about fifteen reviews on Amazon. Now I have 35 reviews for the book, and all of them state that they're 'Amazon Verified Purchases' and all of them loved the book. I always expect at least a few negative reviews from such a big give away, but so far there hasn't been anything below a four star! (This may change any day though!).

So, here's a summary of the benefits of running a free ebook:

  • Exposure. People who haven't come across you before may put your book on their kindle, or other e-reader.
  • Sales. You may get continued sales after a free run, or the readers may buy other books in the series, if there is one.
  • Reviews. Hopefully people will be good enough to leave a review once they're done reading.
  • mailing list sign-up. I always include a link to my mailing list at the back of my books. 
Want to try one of my free books? I have several! Thanks for reading!

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